|China's illegal land reclaimation and military activities on Subi Reef (Photo: AP)
China has evolved its East Sea policy by unilaterally drawing a 9-dash line and introducing the so-called “Four Sha” strategy. When the international community rejected its 9-dash line, China diverted its attention to sovereignty claims over islands, submerged reefs, and shoals, brazenly establishing the so-called “Xi Sha” and “Nan Sha” districts and landing aircraft on Fiery Cross Reef in Vietnam’s Spratly archipelago.
China’s Four Sha strategy violates the UN Charter and the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and boldly exposes China’s intention of claiming sovereignty over the East Sea and turning the East Sea into its “private pond”.
Countries send notes to the UN rejecting China’s claims
Many countries, inside and outside the region, have voiced their objections to China's ambitions in the East Sea.
In a letter to UN Secretary General António Guterres, Kelly Craft, US Ambassador to the UN, said the US “rejects these maritime claims as inconsistent with international law as reflected in the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea.” She requested the UN chief to circulate the letter to all UN Member States as a document of the General Assembly and Security Council.
|Kelly Craft, US Ambassador to the UN (Photo: US Department of State)
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US opposes China’s territorial claims in the East Sea as dangerous and illegal. He called on UN members to unite to maintain international law and freedom of navigation.
Indonesia confirmed its stand in a letter sent to the UN Secretary General on May 26th. The letter spelled out the Indonesian government’s support for a 2016 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, when the court sided with the Philippines in a case that Manila brought against China over a territorial dispute. Indonesia said the 9-dash line map lacks any international legal basis and flouts UNCLOS.
Indonesia’s letter is the latest ASEAN reaction to China’s territorial claims, following Vietnam’s letter in May and Malaysia’s letter last December.
Intention and costs
China’s statements and actions show deliberate calculation. China ignores Vietnam's indisputable sovereignty over the Paracel and Spratly archipelagos as well as the freedom of navigation and aviation rights of other countries.
China’s image in the eyes of its East Asian neighbors has been damaged by its actions in the East Sea. If China continues to ignore international law and the sovereignty of other countries, it will spark more confrontations, disputes, and clashes in the East Sea and put at risk regional security and stability.